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POLITICS

Italy’s Giuseppe Conte to visit Donald Trump on July 30

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will pay his first visit to the White House on July 30th, US President Donald Trump's office announced on Wednesday.

Italy's Giuseppe Conte to visit Donald Trump on July 30
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte with President Donald Trump at the G7 summit. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images/AFP

“Italy is an important NATO ally, a leading partner in Afghanistan and Iraq, and key in bringing stability to the Mediterranean region,” the White House said in a statement.

“Together, the United States and Italy will look to deepen cooperation in addressing global conflicts and promoting economic prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.”

The visit will take place after a NATO summit on July 11-12th, which could prove another spiky encounter between the US president and the leaders of Europe. Trump has repeatedly complained that European countries don't contribute enough to NATO's budget. He's also expected to meet President Vladimir Putin of Russia around the same time, another bone of contention with the European allies.


Street art by TvBoy in Rome shows Conte “playing ball” with Trump and Putin. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Conte, at least, can expect a warm welcome in Washington, having already won Trump's praise for being “very strong on immigration”. The Italian premier also sided with Trump on Russia at the G7 summit in Canada, his international debut in office and the first and only time to date he has met the US president.

“I agree with Donald Trump: Russia should be back in the G8,” Conte tweeted ahead of the meeting earlier this month, having already promised that Italy would review its sanctions on Russia.

But he'll be hoping to avoid another awkward moment like the one at that summit, caught on camera in a clip that was roundly mocked in Italy, when he waved to Trump as the US president sat down at the negotiating table – only to be completely ignored by the commander-in-chief.

Conte will be the second Italian prime minister to visit Trump's White House, after his predecessor Paolo Gentiloni was invited in April 2017.

On that occasion the US president praised Italy as a “key partner” and “true friend”, while contradicting its leader over the responsibility of other countries to help stabilize Libya. He also took out his earpiece for the final minutes of their joint press conference, skipping the translation of the Italian premier's last answers.

READ ALSO: Who is Giuseppe Conte, the political novice now Italy's populist PM?

POLITICS

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Days after Italy's far-right leader made a multilingual appeal to foreign commentators to take her seriously, her main rival in September elections issued his own tit-for-tat video Saturday condemning her record.

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Former prime minister Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, declared his pro-European credentials in a video in English, French and Spanish, while deriding the euroscepticism of Italy’s right-wing parties.

It echoes the trilingual video published this week by Giorgia Meloni, tipped to take power in the eurozone’s third largest economy next month, in which she sought to distance her Brothers of Italy party from its post-fascist roots.

“We will keep fighting to convince Italians to vote for us and not for them, to vote for an Italy that will be in the heart of Europe,” Letta said in English.

His party and Meloni’s are neck-and-neck in opinion polls ahead of September 25 elections, both with around 23 percent of support.

But Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni is part of an alliance with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and anti-immigration leader Matteo Salvini, Letta has struggled to unite a fractured centre-left.

Speaking in French perfected in six years as a dean at Sciences Po university in Paris, Letta emphasised European solidarity, from which Italy is currently benefiting to the tune of almost 200 billion euros ($205 billion) in
post-pandemic recovery funds.

“We need a strong Europe, we need a Europe of health, a Europe of solidarity. And we can only do that if there is no nationalism inside European countries,” he said.

He condemned the veto that he said right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor “Orban — friends and allies of the Italian right — is using every time he can (to) harm Europe”.

In Spanish, Letta highlighted Meloni’s ties with Spain’s far-right party Vox, at whose rally she spoke earlier this summer, railing at the top of her voice against “LGBT lobbies”, Islamist violence, EU bureaucracy and mass
immigration.

In English, he condemned the economic legacy of Berlusconi, a three-time premier who left office in 2011 as Italy was on the brink of economic meltdown, but still leads his Forza Italia party.

Letta’s programme includes a focus on green issues — he intends to tour Italy in an electric-powered bus — and young people, but he has made beating Meloni a key plank of his campaign.

Meloni insisted in her video that fascism was in the past, a claim greeted with scepticism given her party still uses the logo of a flame used by the Italian Social Movement set up by supporters of fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

In a joint manifesto published this week, Meloni, Berlusconi and Salvini committed themselves to the EU but called for changes to its budgetary rules — and raised the prospect of renegotiating the pandemic recovery plan.

Elections were triggered by the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government last month, and are occurring against a backdrop of soaring inflation, a potential winter energy crisis and global uncertainty sparked by
the Ukraine war.

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